Thursday, January 4, 2007
SCOTT WALKER | The Drift | 4AD
On his first proper album in 11 years, the 63-year-old onetime teen idol continues to challenge both listeners and musical conventions with bleak, existential, romantic and fright-inducing cabaret music sung in his resonant, operatic voice. Actually, I was considering panning this CD, because it isn’t as immediately gorgeous as Walker’s last record, Tilt. But it’s too good.
Musically dissonant and jarring, Walker’s songs seem at first to be enigmatic poems, half-spoken and half-intoned in an experimental performance art piece. On repeated plays, though, the themes and subjects emerge from the mannered performances.
For instance, “Jesse” seems to make mysterious references to Memphis, drugs and desperate loneliness. Turns out it’s an imagined dialogue between Elvis Presley and his stillborn twin brother. The spare arrangement finds a Western-surf guitar’s twang bumping up against some crashes of percussion that sound as if they are from a traditional Chinese opera. Then come the slashing, screaming strings straight out of a grade-B horror flick.
“Clara” is a 13-minute meditation on the execution of Mussolini; “Buzzers” explores a surreal vision of torture in Bosnia; and “Psoriatic” tackles the oft-neglected subject of psoriasis sufferers during the Middle Ages. Then there’s the murder of a donkey king in “Jolson and Jones” and the maniacal Donald Duck impression on “The Escape.”
Casual listeners might find this music just plain freakin’ weird, and it is an acquired taste, but if you engage in active listening, you’ll get it. Whether you like it or not is an entirely different matter. —Gene Armstrong
BEASTIE BOYS | Awesome, I…Shot That! | Velocity/Think Films
A genius bit of Warholian film magic this is and was—give 50 amateur camera-peeps DV and Hi-8 cameras and splice their takes together (plus one master shot done by an un-named or unacknowledged pro) and you have a nice, rough DIY concert film.
Titled an “authorized bootleg,” this features audience shots, bathroom shots, backstage tracking, the subway beneath Madison Square Garden and lots of other distractions from the main event, a Beasties gig in October of 2004.
The Beasties’ live shows are fairly haphazard and off-hand, so the nice, tight editing helps. And this is truly arena rock—DJ Mixmaster Mike’s show-offy solo spot might as well be Keith Emerson or Steve Vai diddling away.
Doug E. Fresh’s cameo on “You be Illin’” rules, as does the strange breakdown at the end of “Sureshot.” Not so great is the costume change into a bar mitzvah band featuring the torturous Money Mark jazzifying away. But all in all, this DVD is worth time and money if you’re a fan of this group. —Johnny Angel
GILLES PETERSON & PATRICK FORGE | Sunday Afternoon at Dingwalls | Ether
At the start of the electronic dance music scene as we know it, Gilles Peterson provided an alternative to “acid house” with “acid jazz.” At noon every Sunday, Peterson and cohort Patrick Forge provided what was akin to church for clubbers. Called Talkin’ Loud, these sessions were about the other side of club music. Focused on jazz—its offshoots and various interpretations—Talkin’ Loud hit a note with dedicated followers that has endured to the present day.
With Sunday Afternoon at Dingwalls, a double disc put together by the originators, Peterson and Forge, they bring the essence of that time to life again. While nothing will quite bring the reality alive once more, this collection comes as close as you can get with selections from Roy Ayers (“He’s a Superstar”), Mark Murphy’s “Empty Faces,” Pharaoh Sanders’ “Origin,” and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Luck of Lucien.” —Lily Moayeri